[sf-lug] FOSS community attitudes

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Oct 15 20:23:30 PDT 2008

Quoting Jeff Bragg (jackofnotrades at gmail.com):

> I found this article (found on DZone <http://www.dzone.com/links/index.html>)
> interesting and cogent.  

The interesting thing is that conclusions always depend a great deal on
what assumptions one starts from.  Let's look at Bruce's:

1.  He assumes the community shares a common objective.  
2.  In particular, he assumes its objective include
    unity, "providing an alternative to proprietary software",
    and spreading the open source "gospel".

However, it's not a foregone conclusion that users of open source users
broadly share _any_ of those assumptions, let alone all of them.
Personally, I don't (particularly) seek unity of purpose with others who
choose to use the same software I do, care only very distantly whether
users generally have "an alternative to proprietary software", and
absolutely despise software evangelism & want nothing whatsoever to do
with it.

Also, I (for one) very much don't accept his premise of the differing
"philosophies" he attributes to free software and open source.  I would
even say I indignantly reject his cartoon characterisations of both
efforts, and counter that they seek exactly the same thing.  They are
just two parallel marketing efforts, two maps to the same territory.

Some of his various passing points are well taken (and pretty bloody
trite and obvious, actually), but -- as usual -- in the major parts
where he starts telling us'ns what we "must do", he hasn't bothered to
notice that we haven't necessarily bought into his fundamental
assumption about objectives at the beginning of the discussion, making
his conclusions about what everyone else "must do" irrelevant and a
waste of time.

Bruce is succumbing to a very traditional form of IT-pundit wankery, of
course.  By now, I might as well just have a reply macro in mutt that
matches on the phrases "the {Linux|open source|free software} community
must" and initiates a reply starting with "Actually, no, we really

Particularly annoying in the IT-pundit wankery area is point #6,
"Focusing on hating Microsoft".  That line of rhetoric was already
specious and moronic way back in 1993, and it hasn't improved with age.
As I pointed out while I was running Windows Refund Day[1], typical
Linux users are _not_ the people who dislike / fear / hate Microsoft
Corporation:  In fact, we seldom need to think about it, because -- duh
-- we aren't running their software.  The people who _are_ rabid
Microsoft haters are overwhelmingly their own userbase.

Within the community, people who attempt to rabble-rouse against
Microsoft are regarded as more than a bit clueless.  Bruce is well aware 
of this, e.g., "because the haters are vocal, outsiders often mistake
them for the mainstream of the community", yet he talks out of both
sides of his mouth on the subject anyway.  Slow news day, Bruce?

In fact, that last question seems to about cover it, really.

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/12/26/1040511127721.html

Cheers,      "The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent."
Rick Moen                                       --- John Maynard Keynes (attr.)
rick at linuxmafia.com  

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